COLLEGES across Worcestershire have responded to government plans to increase investment in adult education.

As set out in this week’s Queen’s Speech, the government aims to introduce new legislation through the Skills and Post-16 Bill to support its lifetime skills guarantee.

The bill will put reform promised in the FE White Paper into law, including flexible loans for adults to access higher-level training at college or university level at any point in their lives.

It will also give employers a statutory role in planning publicly-funded training programmes with education providers, through a ‘Skills Accelerator’ programme.

The Skills Accelerator programme will build stronger partnerships between employers and their local further education colleges, and ensure that courses meet local sector needs.

According to the speech, the new bill “emphasises the Government’s vision to sharpen skillsets across the nation, from young people to adults, and ensure that employers have the skilled individuals they need to recover following the pandemic.”

Angela Joyce, chief executive of WCG, which runs colleges in Evesham, Pershore and Malvern, welcomed the news, saying: “We welcome the Government’s recognition of the importance of technical skills for the UK’s economy and its commitment to the role of education in levelling up society.

“The reaffirmation of the Lifetime Skills Guarantee is also welcome as it will provide opportunity for a lifetime commitment to education and training through a more flexible funding system for adults, noting the need for us all to upskill, and even retrain, to ensure the country’s economic growth and development.

“We feel positive and well placed to respond to the anticipated Skills and Post-16 Bill at our colleges. We have strong partnerships across the Midlands, including with the Chambers of Commerce, and are already working to support key industry sectors, particularly construction, advanced manufacturing and digital.

“Strengthening partnerships with key industry sectors and organisations will be essential for Further Education colleges to help fulfil the Government’s skills vision.

"Our recent announcements regarding the new T Levels delivery in our colleges and our Bachelor Degree Awarding Powers highlight our commitment to the higher technical skills agenda being prioritised by the Government.

“We feel well placed to embrace the changes to the post-16 skills system and see our colleges play a key role part in the post Covid-19 economic recovery in Warwickshire, Worcestershire and the wider Midlands region.”

Meanwhile, Sir John Peace, chairman of the Midlands Engine, also welcomed the speech.

He said: “We welcome the focus on levelling up in the Queen’s Speech.

"It signals a clear intent for this Government to unleash Britain’s potential and ensure sustainable post pandemic, post EU exit recovery and growth in every region of the UK.

“As the region forecasted to experience the deepest social and economic impacts of Covid-19, we have a duty to act now to redress the balance and ensure that our young people, our communities, businesses and our SMEs in particular are supported and equipped to flourish.

“The Midlands has always powered UK growth – home to 11 million people, generating 22 per cent of England’s exports and an economy the size of Denmark’s, the Midlands is the birthplace of the UK’s industrial revolution.

“We are now poised to fulfil our vast potential as the region pivotal to building back stronger, better and greener; at the very heart of the Green Industrial Revolution”

The government’s plans will supposedly allow all adults to get a flexible loan for higher-level education and training at university or college which can be used at any point in their lives.

It can be used for full or part-time courses, and is the equivalent of up to four years’ studying.

Prime Minister Boris Johnson called the laws the “rocket fuel” needed to level up the economy.

He said: “ We know that having the right skills and training is the route to better, well-paid jobs.

"I’m revolutionising the system so we can move past the outdated notion that there is only one route up the career ladder, and ensure that everyone has the opportunity to retrain or upskill at any point in their lives."